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For health professionals

Has a patient asked you about voluntary assisted dying? Are you considering becoming a voluntary assisted dying practitioner? This page will answer your questions.


On this page

Background on voluntary assisted dying

What is required of VAD practitioners?

How do I become a VAD practitioner?

Can I opt out?

What do doctors say about voluntary assisted dying?


 

Background on voluntary assisted dying

Voluntary assisted dying laws have passed in all six Australian states. Find out about the law in your state here

Medical professionals are central to the operation of voluntary assisted dying in Australia. Doctors, nurses and pharmacists all have important roles to play.

So far, a relatively small number of doctors have completed the mandatory training to become VAD practitioners - but for those that have, it has been overwhelmingly positive, despite the additional work.


Gareth Wahl smiles at the camera

I didn’t expect it, but seeing patients for VAD has been absolutely game changing for me... satisfaction far beyond anything I’ve ever experienced' 
– VAD physician Gareth Wahl, WA

 

What is required of VAD practitioners?

There are four main roles for healthcare professionals, consistent across all states:

  1. Coordinating practitioner (doctors only)
    This is the first doctor who assesses eligibility and supports their patient through the entire process, including receiving the final request for VAD and, in some cases, administering the medication.
  2. Consulting practitioner (doctors only)
    This is the second doctor who, independent from the first doctor, also assesses the patient’s eligibility. Every request for VAD must be approved by two doctors.
  3. Administering practitioner
    This is the person who gives the life-ending medication intravenously if the patient is not able to take it themselves (or does not want to, an option in WA, QLD, NSW and Tasmania). It can be the coordinating practitioner, or in some states, a nurse practitioner or registered nurse.
  4. Pharmacist
    A small number of pharmacists dispense, deliver and educate about the VAD medications through centralised Pharmacy Services in each state.

 

How do I become a VAD practitioner?

VAD practitioners need to have minimum qualifications and experience. Each state law also requires practitioners to do mandatory training before they can accept a request from a patient to assess their eligibility for VAD.

Visit your state’s health department website to find out more: 

Victoria

Voluntary assisted dying health practitioner information Victoria

Western Australia

Voluntary assisted dying resources for health professionals Western Australia

Tasmania

Voluntary assisted dying resources for health professionals Tasmania

Queensland

Voluntary assisted dying information for medical practitioners and healthcare workers Queensland 

South Australia

Voluntary assisted dying health practitioner information South Australia

New South Wales

Voluntary assisted dying health practitioner information in New South Wales

 

Can I opt out?

Yes, nobody has to become a VAD practitioner. Australia’s laws protect the right of health professionals to opt out altogether (known as conscientious objection).

Others may decide they are OK to provide general information, but not play any larger role in VAD – that’s fine too.

Regardless of the level of involvement, VAD is challenging. But many who do step forward say it is one of the most fulfilling things they have done in medicine.


Lisa and her husband Stephen

We were so grateful to our GP for having stuck by us. His support and openness made all the difference.
– Lisa Boeyen’s husband Stephen was one of the first people to use VAD in WA

 

What do doctors say about voluntary assisted dying?

It was just a privilege. I learned a lot from that patient about courage, about respect.
– Dr Phillip Parente, medical oncologist and VAD practitioner, Melbourne
I've gotten a lot out of it. And I know the patients and the families have because they've told me so. There's no doubt in my mind, it's a very bonding experience.
– Dr Andrea Bendrups, general physician, Royal Melbourne Hospital
Melbourne oncologist Dr Phillip Parente, a one-time conscientious objector, has helped dozens of patients access Voluntary Assisted Dying
Why this doctor changed his mind about voluntary assisted dying  

'When one of my patients dies, I don't see it as a failure. If I've made that journey better, I've done my job.'

Read about Dr Phillip Parente's experience here >

Fiona Jane manages a hospice in Western Australia’s Great Southern region. She shares her experiences of voluntary assisted dying.
'We've seen gentle, beautiful deaths'  

Fiona Jane manages a community hospice in WA’s Great Southern region. She shares her experiences of voluntary assisted dying since the state’s law came into effect in July 2021.

Read about Fiona's experience here >

Black and white photo of two elderly people overlooking the beach
‘It’s a new system and there are still some challenges’  

Dr Sarah Pickstock, a palliative care specialist in WA, shares advice for doctors considering providing voluntary assisted dying.

Read about the challenges of a new system here >

Image of a doctor holding a patient's hand.
'I was a late convert to the voluntary assisted dying'  

General disease physician Dr James Hurley shares his experience as a VAD practitioner in Victoria.

Read about Dr Hurley's experience here >